Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 38

Though Chechens have barely had a chance to catch their breath since the October 5 presidential election, campaign maneuvers are already underway for the all-Russian parliamentary elections in December–which will include Chechnya’s seat in the federal Duma. As of October 21, some nineteen candidates were running for that seat. Of these “the most serious,” in the view of Vremya novostei analyst Ivan Sukhov, are Akhmar Zavgaev, Chechnya’s current representative in the Federation Council (the so-called “upper house” of the federal parliament, which, despite its name has less power than the Duma); Ibragim Suleimenov, former leader of the anti-Dudaev opposition in the early 1990s; Amin Osmaev, former head of Chechnya’s pro-Moscow parliament; and Salambek Maigov, former representative in Moscow of the underground separatist government led by President Aslan Maskhadov. (On October 16, the Caucasus Times quoted Maskhadov as calling Maigov’s candidacy a “provocation,” despite the fact that his decision to run was endorsed by several Chechen human rights organizations.)

The Itar-Tass news agency reported on October 20 that the Putin administration’s election commission had formally registered four of the nineteen candidates, including Zavgaev and Saidullaev. The deadline for the others to collect signatures on their nominating petitions and file the other necessary documents is October 22.

Zavgaev has been a reliable ally of the Kadyrov administration, which of course will be an essential requirement for victory as long as the Kremlin’s current policies on Chechnya continue. (For that reason alone one can amend Sukhov’s list by eliminating Maigov.) It was Kadyrov who got Zavgaev his current post in the Federation Council, and the latter has repaid the favor by faithfully echoing the Putin-Kadyrov line in Moscow, London and elsewhere (see Chechnya Weekly, September 19).

Sukhov suggested on October 15 that the popular hatred of Zavgaev’s family in Chechnya (his brother Doku was the Soviet-appointed, anti-separatist Chechen leader ousted in 1991), “has gradually changed into a nostalgia for the peaceful Soviet period. After the death of another brother, prefect of the Nadterechny district Akhmet Zavgaev, whom terrorists killed a year ago, respect for the clan has grown still further.”

Zavgaev prudently is not taking victory for granted. He told an October 14 press conference that he will keep his Federation Council seat unless and until he wins the Duma one.